September 14, 2023, 5:57 PM ·

Now that Disney fans have heard a bunch of updates for Walt Disney World, what’s next for Disneyland?Answers to that question moved closer to being revealed today, as the Disneyland Resort and the City of Anaheim took the next step in the DisneylandForward project.

The City of Anaheim today released a Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report on the proposed DisneylandForward proposal. DisneylandForward is the resort’s plan to change the 1990s zoning agreements that regulate where Disney can build what on its Anaheim property.Disneyland wants to change that deal so that it can build attractions on space now reserved for parking and hotels. Before the city can vote on that proposal, however, state and local rules required an Environmental Impact Report. The city hired consultants to prepare the report, at Disneyland’s expense, and it’s a biggie – coming in at 16,000 pages.
Disney artist’s concept of potential new attraction spaces under the DisneylandForward proposalDisneyland today hosted a briefing on the report for invited journalists, including me, to go over highlights from the city’s report. To start, what the city released today is a draft, with its final report to be completed based on public comments and workshops over the next six and half weeks. And the draft is called a “subsequent” report because it effectively would amend the original 1990s report that led to creation of the Disneyland Resort and Anaheim Resort districts.The report’s findings will further refine exactly what Disneyland can and cannot do on its property. Disneyland is not seeking to expand its property in Anaheim nor to be allowed to build more attractions or hotel rooms than it was allowed in its earlier agreements with the city. The proposal only affects where those facilities could be built. Nor is Disneyland seeking public funding for any improvements, though Disneyland could be required to pay for intersection improvements around the current Toy Story Parking Lot, should Disney get approval to redevelop that as commercial space. Disneyland did not own much of the land the Toy Story sits upon when the 1990s deal was completed.

Disneyland officials have framed DisneylandForward as an opportunity to expand Disneyland and Disney California Adventure onto land now occupied by the Downtown Disney parking lots. However, nothing in Disneyland’s proposal or the draft report, if adopted, would prohibit the resort from developing separately charged attractions in those areas, raising the possibility that they could be developed as a third theme park if Disney were to choose that particular option. City development rules referenced in the draft report today would prohibit Disney from building any above-ground outdoor roller coasters on the current parking lot land west of Disneyland Drive, however. As a result, any large new attractions built on that space would likely be indoor experiences, Disneyland officials said. Noise abatement rules also would prohibit fireworks shows west of Disneyland Drive. For what it’s worth, existing regulations from a variety of agencies already prohibit Disneyland from staging drone shows at the resort and will continue to do so. The draft report looked at 16 study areas where the DisneylandForward changes, if permitted, could affect the environment and quality of life around the Disneyland Resort. In 12 of those areas, the report found that Disneyland’s plans and mitigation efforts would result in “less than significant impact” on the community:AestheticsBiological ResourcesEnergyGeology and SoilsHazards and Hazardous MaterialsHydrology and Water QualityLand Use and PlanningPopulation and HousingPublic ServiceTransportationTribal Cultural ResourcesUtilities and Service SystemsThe draft report concluded that there would be less than significant impact with noise during park operations under DisneylandForward, though there could be a “significant and unavoidable impact” with noise during construction of new attractions and hotels. However, Disneyland has committed to mitigation efforts including the prohibition of pile driving during the construction of new parking structures and clam shovel drops or operation of vibratory rollers near existing homes.The report also concluded that DisneylandForward could lead to significant and unavoidable impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Note that transportation was found to be a less than significant impact, so the effects driving air quality and greenhouse gas emission would be from the generation of additional energy to power the resort and the creation, transportation and use of materials on site, among other reasons. Greenhouse gas emissions were not considered in the original Disneyland Resort and Anaheim Resort projects’ Environmental Impact Report, and Disneyland said in its response to the draft report today that its mitigation efforts over the years will result in a reduction of air quality impacts anticipated under those projects’ original EIR.The final area of study in the draft report was cultural and historic resources, and the report concluded that DisneylandForward would have “significant and unavoidable impact” on those, given that the 68-year-old Disneyland is a potential Historic District that could be eligible for listing on the California Register. The Anaheim-selected consultant that wrote this section of the report, Historic Resources Group, noted that there was never any intention for Disneyland to remain static, but that the company should continue to balance its need for improvements with maintaining features and attractions “that reflect the original character, history, and intent of Disneyland,” as the consultant said that Disneyland has done in the past.With the release of the draft report, the city has begun a 45-day public comment period. Interested residents may sign up for notices of public workshops on the City of Anaheim website. And if you are interested in reading any of the actual draft report, it also is available via that website, here. Here are the direct links to the 872-page summary and the 15,106-page appendices. And if that’s too much to process, you can find fact sheets and summaries at this page on the city’s website.Following the public comment, a final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report will be released, leading up to planning commission and city council votes on the DisneylandForward proposal next year.* * *
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